From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

AGL auditors know about donations. Energy giant AGL has decided to call in external auditors as it watches ICAC continue to uncover secret payments and dodgy donations to the New South Wales Liberal Party, but one tipster has found AGL’s choice of auditor noteworthy. AGL has called in consultants Deloitte to check its political donations for errors and omissions — but Deloitte itself is not unfamiliar with the donations game. Over the years, Deloitte has been one of the biggest donors to the Millennium Forum, a company set up by the Liberals that ICAC found earlier this year was used to funnel dodgy donations into the 2011 NSW election campaign. Perhaps ICAC should be asking an easier question — who hasn’t made a donation to a political party in NSW?

Data retention is good … according to those who want your data. In Fairfax papers today you’ll find a (rather poorly argued, but anyway) justification for data retention from Anthony Bergin, the “deputy director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute”. A bit more disclosure might have been warranted from Bergin and/or Fairfax, however. What is ASPI? Despite its web address, it was established by the Howard government in 2001, and purports to provide “an independent, non-partisan think tank that produces expert and timely advice for Australia’s strategic and defence leaders”. It gets over $3 million a year from the Department of Defence but also gets funding from corporate membership. Who are members of ASPI? Big defence contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Thales, as well as security contractors like Serco. ASPI is the mouthpiece of Defence and security and military industry. The only surprise in Bergin’s piece would have been if he had deviated in the slightest from the feeble talking points being used to justify data retention and the government’s other assaults on individual rights.

An Apple a day … Heads up, Apple fan girls and boys: the iPhone 6 will hit Australia in “October or November”. That’s the message Optus’ call centre is promoting to customers who are renegotiating contracts. Apple is widely rumoured to be launching the new model on September 9, but there’s always a lag in phones getting to Australia.

Also in Apple-related news, we received a tip that the company may have finally found a location for a Melbourne CBD store. Apple has been scoping out various locations for almost 10 years, and in recent times has been reported to have narrowed the search to Collins Street, specifically between Swanston and Elizabeth streets. Apple is rumoured to have been close to a deal before — the GPO building, Emporium development and Emirates House on Collins Street have all been connected with the brand over the years. Now the tech giant has reportedly set its sights on the Australia on Collins building, which would be a win-win as the dilapidated shopping mall was closed for renovations earlier this year. We’ll be keeping our ear to the ground on this one.

Where’s Peter? Following yesterday’s tip that Eden-Monaro MP Peter Hendy has been attempting to bolster the Liberal party’s membership numbers, we received this photo from a Bega-based tipster. This poster has been seen around town and it seems the residents aren’t too happy with Hendy. It reads:

“Last seen schmoozing for votes in the Eden-Monaro electorate. Rarely seen here since. Not answering any emails or letters.

Answers to ‘would you like a pay rise? A gold travel pass perhaps?’

If you see him do NOT approach — he will ignore all attempts to communicate.”

The Block: London edition. We hear that a four-storey mansion in the London suburb of Highgate owned by the Australian High Commission is undergoing some expensive renovations “under direction of ‘the lady of the house'” according to our tipster. While the Australian Embassy is on The Strand, the property in the exclusive suburb is believed to be residential. Alexander Downer began his term as High Commissioner to London in May — could it be his new digs? We asked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in London about the renos, and were told:

“The Department is managing this estate portfolio in an efficient and effective manner, including through the appropriate minor repair and maintenance of a Cholmeley Park residence.”

Combet and traditional Labor values. When Greg Combet launched his book Fights Of My Life in Sydney, the stars came out to play. In Melbourne, the launch was a sit-down seminar in the Celtic Club, and spotted in the crowd was super Labor lawyer Josh Bornstein, former Victorian deputy premier John Thwaites — taking a well earned break from holidaying, and actor Max Gillies — who had to be there, as partner Louise Adler runs MUP, the publisher of Combet’s tome. Judging by the performance Combet isn’t going to give the Rolling Stones a run for their money anytime soon, but he spared no quarter in suggesting that if Labor had run with Beazley in 2007, they would have had a leader with the “Labor background and maturity to lead properly”. Ouch. Traditional Labor values were on display with the snacks. None of your sushi nonsense. Party pies and quartered egg sandwiches. Stodgidarity forever!

Film festivals clash, too. While it seems like there is a different film festival every week in Melbourne and Sydney, in the next few weeks cinema goers will be faced with an interesting clash in the festival timetable. The Israeli Film Festival will run across the country from August 19 to September 7, while the Arab Film Festival will run from today until August 31 in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. It is believed that protests are planned at both festivals in Sydney. The festivals may provide an interesting outlet for tensions in the community over the ongoing conflict in Gaza. The Arab Film Festival opens with When I Saw You, billed as:

“A first ever look at the secret camps of the Freedom Fighters of the Palestinian Resistance in 1967, capturing the mood of hope and resilience in the face of war and a changing world.”

Ask an Aussie. This poster was spotted at a train station in the UK by an Australian redditor recently, and it seems they need some help with wearing thongs — or “casual beach shoes” as they call them. Is it really that hard?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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